the current age …
the ages to come
the Mystery which was kept Secret
The Apostle Paul was called by God to proclaim a marvellous message which was different from the original gospel preached by the 12 Apostles. His calling was unique in many ways.
Gal 1: 15- 16 (Emphatic Diaglott NT) When but it pleased the God, that having set apart me from womb of mother of me, and having called through the favor of himself, to reveal the son of himself to me, so that I might announce him to the nations …
Paul received the gospel he called his from the resurrected Christ, not from any man, let alone the Apostles:
Galatians (KJV) But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ."
It was not the same gospel as that proclaimed by the church at
Phases of Paul's ministry
Very soon after he was converted by God on the road to
Act (KJV) And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.
This marked the beginning of his progressive ministry. At the onset Paul was hated by the Jewish leadership. He went to
Gal (KJV) Neither went I up to
Paul speaking of himself:
2Co 12:2 (KJV) I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
2Co 12:4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
Paul was caught up to the third heaven and was taught by Christ Jesus for 3 years. It is more than probable that he had received the revelation of the secret during that time. He knew the secret of the dispensation of grace before he had penned any of his epistles. Hence they were written with it in mind, and with the object of preparing the saints for its eventual reception. God was ordering all of Paul's acts and words in view of the impending out pouring of grace, which could not come until the full apostasy of
The next phase of his ministry began when he and Barnabas were severed by the Holy Spirit from the twelve apostles, the prophets, and teachers
Act 13:2 (KJV) As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
Paul and Barnabas went throughout
Paul's teaching in this second phase of his ministry was first carried on independently of the twelve (Acts 13:1—), and then completed in association with them. The twelve were sent to the Circumcision. They went to their respective spheres because of the character of the commission under which they acted. Every circumstance and assertion in the context goes to show that while Paul cautiously obtained the fellowship of the twelve, the terms of that very fellowship sent him one way and them another. Indeed, the apostle did not preach this gospel when in
The two administrations with their respective messages parallel each other. The earlier one in accord with the establishment of the church at Pentecost. This church was composed of Israelites and proselytes. The second administration commenced with calling of Paul and consisted of believers from the nations (gentiles). The former decreased in significance and the latter increased both in revelation and glory throughout the Acts period.
In the synagogues Paul proclaimed the hope of
So when the preaching of that kingdom tapers into an temporary obscurity a need arose for just such a ministry as Paul's. The Acts records how God used Paul as a servant to bring the centre of attention of kingdom preaching to a gradual close, and just as gradually inaugurate the new gospel leading up eventually to the previously undisclosed essentials given in his latter epistles. This transitional period is covered by Acts 13 to Acts 28. During this period the epistle to the Romans was written and it was marked by the transitional character of that period.
On his third missionary journey, it was in
Act 19:8 - 9 (KJV) And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the
Paul remained in
Rom (KJV) That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.
And in 2 Cor. 5 we find him using the terms "new creature (creation)" and "reconciled", terms not mentioned in the gospel of the kingdom of God proclaimed by the 12 Apostles.
2Co (KJV) Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
It was the period after Paul's visit to
When Jesus Christ was on earth, He gave no indication of a two thousand year pause in prophetic history: In Acts, likewise, Peter seems to promise the immediate return of the crucified Messiah if the nation of
The Consolation of God
God conciliated the world to Himself, but the world had no part in the matter. In Christ God was doing for Himself and for the world what was necessary to make peace between Himself and the world possible. It does not mean that at Calvary God tried to prevail on men to be reconciled to Him. Peace was made by the blood of the cross, and is an accomplished fact altogether independent of man's knowledge or belief. Though the world is not, on its side, conciliated to God, God has conciliated the world to Himself. That is supreme love.
2 Cor. (KJV) And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
Rom (KJV) For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
In the above scriptures it is a one sided conciliation which God effected and by which He is able to show a position and an activity of grace to the whole world
Being enemies, we were conciliated to God by the death of His Son. Not when we surrendered to the entreaties of God, but when we were enemies, we were conciliated to God, the death of His Son being the solitary and sufficient cause. In Christ God did the work without human cooperation.
In Romans Paul states that with the time of
Throughout the Scriptures, the nation of
As we have covered earlier, there is a gospel of the Circumcision (which included faith and works), and there is a gospel of the Uncircumcision (salvation by faith alone). Now Paul was to carry this latter to the gentiles, while the Apostles from
But now the middle wall of partition separating the people of
Eph. (KJV) For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
So now is the era for the dispensation of grace, this awe-inspiring news, --the word of the conciliation and grace glorious--the remarkable good news never before bestowed to man:
God's Hidden Secret - the Mystery
Romans 16:25 (KJV) Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,
Mention of the secret may seem peculiar to those who have not studied the prison epistles carefully. Paul reveals the mystery which was kept secret by God from the beginning of the creation. This mystery which was shut up in a secret is now revealed. The mystery consists of the new dispensation granted after the total rejection by
Col. 1:26 (KJV) Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:
Eph 3:9 (KJV) And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
Of the nine epistles to the churches only the three prison epistles—Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians—contain the secret and the explanation. The earlier ones were written during the transitional period prior to Acts 28:28.
It is in Paul's prison epistles that we find insight previously undisclosed and not found anywhere else in Scripture. It is in the captivity in
The prophets and apostles were only concerned with the restoration of the earth and anticipation of the millennial kingdom and the new creation. None of them were given a vision of God's plan revealed in the three prison epistles. They had no idea of our heavenly (celestial) destiny.
Peter and James and John show conclusively, by their epistles, that they never received the truth contained in Paul's prison epistles. It is evident that this mystery was neither sent to the twelve apostles nor received by them. The epistles of James, Peter, and John, do not acknowledge it at all. Only Peter hints at it, but he found it "hard to apprehend" (2 Peter ).
The Circumcision, represented by Peter, found these things "hard to apprehend" (2 Peter ), not because they lacked intelligence or spiritual understanding, but because the mystery is outside the sphere where their own blessings are found. If it needs a special spiritual enlightenment (Eph.1:17) for us to perceive these great truths, how difficult and practically impossible is it for those beyond the bounds of its operation to get more than a glimpse of the greatest of all of God's revelations!
The secret was withheld until after Paul's imprisonment and the setting aside of
The body of Christ or a body of Christ is not mentioned any place in Scripture except in the Pauline writings. The body of Christ is not even mentioned in the book of Acts. There are unquestionably elements of both the body and bride figures in the pre-prison epistles. But even the slight allusions to bridal relations are a far cry from the writings of the earlier prophets.
Read these passages of Scripture carefully and see how little scriptural foundation there is for the assumption that the twelve apostles belong to the body of Christ, or had anything to do with establishing the body of Christ. The body of Christ and the bride of Christ are not the same thing. (An article is coming to explain the difference.)
The body of Christ, was to have a separate sphere of blessing, independent of
There are differences shown by the presence or absence of words.
What is the end result of those who are of the body of Christ in this era? At the resurrection we who are of the dispensation of grace, will NOT inherit the earth, but rather the heavens.
Notice this remarkable truth, both from the King James Version, the Emphatic Diaglott and the Concordant literal Version.
1Cor. (KJV) And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
1 Cor. (CLV)And according as we wear the image of the soilish, we should be wearing the image also of the Celestial."
1 Cor. (Diaglott) and even as we bore the image of the earthy, we shall bear also the image of the heavenly.
The word heavenly in the King James Version and some others is from the Greek ἐπουράνιος (G2032). In some other versions, it is also rendered:
in the heavenly sphere
the sphere of spiritual activities
There is no English word that gives a precise thought for the Greek word. So the best that the translators have done is use one of the words above. I suggest that either heavenly, heavenlies or celestial are acceptable. But celestial or celestials is preferred. In its singular form it is a little better than heavenly, but in its plural form it comes very close to the meaning and usage of the Greek.
To be told that our blessings are among the heavenlies (celestials) without any previous preparation would invite incredulity and scepticism. It is similar to the idea of the resurrection from the dead which Paul preached in Corinth (1 Cor.15:35). In answering the question to the Corinthians, "With what body are they coming?"
The apostle prepares us for the heavenly destiny now revealed. He does not stop at saying the resurrected body is incorruptible, glorious, powerful and spiritual, but goes on saying a still greater change will occur than these words suggest. It will no longer be earth bound, but celestial. It is no longer to be a terrestrial body. We are to put on the image of the heavenly (celestial) (1 Cor.15:39-52). This much he made known to the Corinthians long before the secret of Ephesians was revealed.
Paul is the apostle who most frequently refers to our ultimate destiny among the heavenlies. Here are a few of the scriptures referring to this marvellous truth.
(KJV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
(CLV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who blesses us with every spiritual blessing among the celestials, in Christ,
(KJV) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
(CLV) and rouses us together and seats us together among the celestials, in Christ Jesus,
(KJV) And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
(CLV) The Lord will be rescuing me from every wicked work and will be saving me for His celestial kingdom: to Whom be glory for the eons of the eons. Amen!
(Young's Literal Translation) and the Lord shall free me from every evil work, and shall save me —to his heavenly kingdom; to whom is the glory to the ages of the ages! Amen.
It is evident that very little, indeed, is said concerning the celestials in the Scriptures. There are several good reasons which suggest themselves. First, there is our innate inability to understand what is not human. The language of mankind is not a fit vehicle for celestial things. Our Lord mentioned this in His interview with Nicodemus. "If I tell you of the terrestrial and you are not believing, how shall you be believing if I should be telling you of the celestial?" This is often typified by those who seek to define the earth's relation to the heavens by earth-born phraseology. They do not realize its inadequacy.
We are to be focused on the celestial, not the terrestrial. Paul's later letters deal with the heavens, and more particularly with the channel through which God purposes to bring His blessings to the heavenly spheres—the church which is Christ's body.
Our Head is already glorified in heaven. He is not despised or rejected there as He is on earth. And our destiny is that celestial realm, where He is exalted as Christ Jesus.
Not merely are our blessings to be among the celestials (Eph. 1:3), but Christ Himself is given the place supreme. He is to be the Head in the heavens as well as on the earth (Eph.1:10.
The full force and special significance of "God who works all things after the counsel of His own will" (Eph.1:11) is lost if we do not see its peculiar application to the Jewish remnant who became a part of the body of Christ. They are certainly entitled to a place in the millennial kingdom on earth. Paul deserves the best place in the earthly kingdom. What explanation has God to offer for changing Paul's destiny to heaven and thus causing him to forfeit his place in the kingdom administration on earth as a king or priest (2 Pet. 2:5; 9)? It is, this, that He is operating the universe, not only in accord with His revealed counsel, as proclaimed so far, but according to the counsel of His will, which includes the secrets now made known.
Our blessings, then, are indeed in heavenly places, but far more than that, they are among celestial beings, that is, those who are on the heavenly bodies as we are on the earth.
Let us rejoice in our privileges and prospect. The heavens are higher than the earth and we are highest in the heavens. Those who become lowest in this celestial exaltation would not want to exchange this glory for anything, including a position of ruler ship in God's millennial kingdom. The highest dignitaries in the universe will gladly bow before the members of Christ's body, which will have the ultimate place, not only in rule, but in the dispensation of God's favour and in the reconciliation of the celestial throng to Him. We who were last have become first. Such is the power of God's grace!
After the revelation of the celestial (heavenly) allotment for those associated with Paul's ministry, the status of the nations, or gentiles, is changed from subordination to the Circumcision to full equality. Together, both are raised to the highest place in the universe. "To Him be glory in the ecclesia and in Christ Jesus for all the generations of the eon of the eons!
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